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Offseason will be key for Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman

TAMPA — Bucs QB Josh Freeman had the best completion percentage among the first-round rookies at 54.6 percent. (The Lions' Matthew Stafford was 53.3, the Jets' Mark Sanchez 53.8.)

But improving accuracy is the most important thing Freeman can do this offseason.

His 18 interceptions in nine games is unacceptable. But just as telling was the way Freeman missed easy throws, particularly early in games.

Freeman likely will improve as he becomes more comfortable with the offense and the receivers and learns from the mistakes he made in 2009. But he also needs to improve his mechanics, including footwork.

"I see myself making leaps and bounds in (accuracy and mechanics)," Freeman said. "That comes with confidence. When you're out there worrying about protections, when you're worried about everything else, you're not going to be going through your progressions clearly.

"And if you're not going through your progressions clearly, you either lock onto a guy or you see someone flash and you don't always make the best decision or the most accurate pass."

Although there has been no official word, Greg Olson likely will remain offensive coordinator. But rather than keeping elements of the system he inherited from the ousted Jeff Jagod­zinski, he will implement a completely new one.

"We need an offseason where we can work together," Freeman said. "It's going to be time working together and getting a better feel for each other and me growing as a quarterback."

"We're going to call formations different. There's also going to be a lot of different schemes and stuff we might not have gotten to this year because it was a little bit of a makeshift offense."

Bye-bye, Byron?: Freeman could use a veteran to mentor him next season, but chances are it won't be Byron Leftwich.

After going 0-3 as a starter, Leftwich finished the season on injured reserve with an elbow injury. He still was around One Buc every day to counsel Freeman and others. Remember, he was voted a team captain. But Leftwich has a $3.5 million roster bonus due in March, which the Bucs won't pay.

But if something can be worked out, Leftwich said he would like to remain in Tampa Bay.

"I love being a part of this organization. I love playing for (coach Raheem Morris). But right now isn't the time to answer that. It's a time for everybody to go catch their breath. This was not really a good year for anybody.

"I wish I could've had more opportunities. I didn't. This is Josh Freeman's team. I've been around. I understand how it works, so I won't say too much about anything. But I'm prepared for everything."

Barber shop talk: With Morris returning for 2010, you can bet CB Ronde Barber plays one final season to finish his career in Tampa Bay. Barber turns 35 in April. For the first time since his rookie year, he didn't have an interception.

"It's a yearly process to see if I can wake up in March and April and get ready to grind through another season," Barber said. "If I had to make a decision now, I'd say yes, I can do it. But we'll see.

"When you get to my age, you have to evaluate. … I enjoy evaluating. It's not just a Ronde Barber process. Everybody so far told me … I should keep playing."

Weighing options: T Donald Penn is among 212 players set to become an unrestricted free agent. But if 2010 is an uncapped year, he will be restricted, meaning the Bucs can match any offer.

One cause for the Bucs to pause: Penn's lack of conditioning. He gained significant weight during the second half of the season, at one point tipping the scales at about 360 pounds. He is listed at 6 feet 5, 305 pounds.

Given his contract situation, the Bucs don't expect to see Penn much this offseason. That doesn't give them much comfort.

Offseason will be key for Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman 01/09/10 [Last modified: Sunday, January 10, 2010 12:39pm]
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